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Eban and Kissinger Agree U.S. Must Take Lead in Peace Process

December 13, 1988
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Abba Eban and Henry Kissinger said Monday that an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement will only come about with the mediation of the United States.

The two veteran diplomats, one a former Israeli foreign minister, the other a former U.S. secretary of state, were the speakers at a symposium held in honor of the United Jewish Appeal’s 50th anniversary.

Philanthropic leaders from all over North America and Canada gathered at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Sunday for the two-day “jubilee” and its schedule of forums, planning meetings, awards ceremonies and entertainment.

In a session Monday morning, Eban and Kissinger argued for a strong U.S. role in peace negotiations between Israel and Palestinians on the basis that the present stalemate is untenable.

“I don’t believe Israel can stay where it is,” said Kissinger. “Nor do I believe Israel can return to the 1967 borders.

“What Israel needs is a negotiating position. It must find some platform on which it can stand with the U.S.,” he said.

Kissinger said he favors negotiations leading to an interim arrangement, during which Palestinians would form some type of government in the administered territories and prove their ability to coexist with Israel.

Israel, in the meantime, would have to restate its commitment to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for a land-for-peace solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.


That is essentially the position of Israel’s Likud party, which favors direct negotiations and an interim solution as specified by the 1978 Camp David accords.

But Eban, a veteran of Israel’s Labor Alignment, said he does not believe in what he called “this myth of direct negotiations.”

“All settlements in Mideast history have demanded a third party,” he said. “The U.S. should be active and a little audacious, and not mind talking to abrasive people.”

The U.S. role, said Eban, should extend to exploratory talks with the PLO, if the PLO meets certain conditions set by the U.S. government when Kissinger was conducting shuttle diplomacy in the mid-1970s.

“I do not believe the U.S. government should be attacked if they explore the ground by talking to people,” said Eban. “Many Israelis will trust the United States to hold that discussion (with the PLO) without sacrificing our interests. Israel without the U.S. is not going to go anywhere in negotiations.”

The panelists were asked about the recent meeting in Stockholm between Arafat and a contingent of American Jewish intellectuals, during which Arafat was said to inch closer to unqualified recognition of Israel and denunciation of terrorism.

Eban said that the world had only to wait to judge Arafat’s sincerity until Tuesday, when the PLO chief is expected to address a special United Nations General Assembly session in Geneva.

Said Kissinger. “If the Palestinians want to make an unambiguous statement (recognizing Israel), they know how. But they’re so divided among themselves. What they present to us as a change they want to be able to present to colleagues as freedom to do what they want to do.”

The UJA gathering began Sunday night with a dinner honoring past and present national chairmen and executives, including William Rosenwald.

Rosenwald, as head of the National Refugee Coordinating Committee, was one of the original signers of the charter creating UJA after the Kristalinacht pogrom of 1938.

The conclave concluded Monday afternoon with a national board of trustees meeting.

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